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Researching your law dissertation

Planning your literature search

In order to research your dissertation, you will need to carry out a search of the literature which has been written on your topic. This will involve looking at relevant cases, legislation, books and journal articles. 

In addition - depending on your topic - you may also need to look at parliamentary publications, official documents, conference papers, newspaper articles, and many other sources. Remember that when you are looking at material which is freely available on the Internet, you need to consider the material's accuracy, authority, currency, objectivity and intended audience.

It pays to plan your search strategy in advance. Think about:

  • the scope of your dissertation (how far back in time are you researching; which jurisdictions are you looking at?)
  • appropriate keywords for your search
  • which sources you want to search (other sections of this Guide explain how to look for books, journal articles, cases, legislation, EU law and international law)

When you find a potentially useful source, be sure to capture all the information about it that you will need for citing and referencing.  With many databases it is also possible to save searches so that you can re-run them at a later date, thereby saving yourself time.

This guide by our Research Librarians provides an excellent introduction to literature searching, including step-by-step processes and a worked example.